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Political Demography:
An Inquiry into the Political
Consequences of Population Change
Myron Weiner
Political demography is the study of the size, composition, and distribution of population in relation to both government and politics. It is concerned with the political consequences of population change, especially the effects of population change on the demands made upon governments, on the performance of governments, and on the distribution of political power. It also considers the political determinants of population change, especially the political causes of the movement of people, the relationship of various population configurations to the structures and functions of government, and the public policy directed at affecting the size, composition, and distribution of populations. Finally, in the study of political demography it is not enough to know the facts and figures of populations—that is, the fertility, mortality, and migration rates; it is also necessary to consider the knowledge and attitudes that people have toward population issues.
This essay will focus on one aspect of the study of political demography, namely the political consequences of population change: beginning with a brief review of some of the classical statements concerning the relationship between population and politics, then turning to more detail about some of the more recent statements concerning the political consequences of population change. The second part will suggest some ways of thinking about the political effects of population change. The third and concluding section will point to some of the research and policy implications of this analysis.
Many of the issues raised by political demography have long antecedents in political and social theory. The concept of optimum population for political
Myron Weiner is Professor of Political Science and Senior Staff Member, Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.York: Random House, 1969.